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Protein interactions underlying the reshaping and movement of nerve cells

31 May 2022

Unsevered Fingers

Scratching around in the dark, filopodia poke out from growth cones like tiny fingers from a hand, helping young nerve cells (neurons) to find each other. Pictured here under a high-powered microscope, researchers zoom in on the secret of their wriggling in a rat’s neuron. Filopodia are made with a stiff protein called actin (highlighted here in green), held rigid by another protein called fascin – every now and then these fingers need renewing and are severed by a protein called cofilin (red). Yet researchers find in certain conditions cofilin wraps itself around the actin, breaking the ties with fascin and allowing filopodia to bend and flex. This gentler role for the nervous finger chopper may be crucial in helping neurons search their environment during development, and may be guided later in life in treatments for neurodegenerative disease.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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